Available Treatment Methods For Lung Cancer By Stage
Staging non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is done immediately after the disease has been diagnosed. It is important for your doctor to determine where the tumor is located and whether it has spread (i.e. metastasized). If it has spread, the extent of its metastasis must also be determined.
Treatment of lung cancer is based largely on the disease’s stage and the areas of the body to which it has metastasized. In the early stages, surgery can be performed to cure the disease. In later stages, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also used. This article will describe the treatment methods doctors employ for each stage of lung cancer.
Treatment For Stage 0
During this phase, NSCLC is known as carcinoma in situ (CIS). It is usually curable since the disease occupies only a few layers of lung tissue. Unfortunately, it is seldom detected this early. The patient rarely displays symptoms,and when they surface, they are usually minor. In cases where doctors discover carcinoma in situ, it is typically by accident while performing tests for unrelated circumstances.
Surgery is currently the first choice among treatment methods. The diseased tissue is removed via a wedge resection. Sometimes, a newer approach called photodynamic therapy is used. Here, a medication called a photosensitizer is given that becomes active when exposed to particular type of light. When activated, it kills cancerous cells.
Treatment For Stage 1
In this phase, the cancer remains within the lung. It has not yet spread into the nearby lymph nodes. As a result, the tumor can still be removed with surgery alone, essentially curing the disease without the need for chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Different surgical procedures can be done to address the tumors based on where they are located in the lungs. A wedge resection can be done when the disease is limited to a small piece of tissue. A sleeve resection may be performed when part of the main bronchus needs to be excised along with a portion of lung tissue. In some cases, a lobectomy must be done when the disease is present within two lobes.
If the patient is unable to tolerate surgery, radiation therapy may be given (chemotherapy is usually not recommended). Photodynamic therapy (described earlier) can also be done.
Treatment For Stage 2
At this point, the disease will have spread to the lymph nodes. It is still considered localized, though surgery may not be sufficient as a stand-alone approach to treatment. As with stage 1 lung cancer, surgery is based on where the tumor is found, and how far it has spread. A wedge resection, sleeve resection, or lobectomy may be performed. Rarely, a partial or whole pneumonectomy is required to cure the disease. This is the removal of the lung.
Chemotherapy is often used as an adjunct treatment method with surgery. If the patient cannot tolerate surgery, radiation therapy may be used as a replacement. This is usually done externally.
Treatment For Stage 3
By this stage, the tumor has spread into the lymph nodes further away from the affected tissue. It may have also metastasized into the tissue beyond the lung. The disease is categorized between stages 3A and 3B, with the latter defined by a tumor that has spread into nearby structures (e.g. the heart).
Treatment for NSCLC at this stage is usually given in multiple forms, and can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Once the disease has progressed to stage 3B, it is rarely curable. Treatment is focused on minimizing the patient’s symptoms.
Treatment For Stage 4
At this point, the tumor has typically metastasized to other parts of the body. It is generally regarded as incurable, and treatment is given to make the patient more comfortable.
Surgery is rarely done since the tumor cannot be eliminated by removing the diseased portion of the lung. Instead, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are administered. Both can be useful in minimizing pain and bleeding while slowing the tumor’s growth. Unfortunately, only one in ten people with stage 4 lung cancer survive for five years or longer.
Because it advances so quickly, it is important to diagnose non-small cell lung cancer as quickly as possible. The more quickly the disease can be treated, the better the chances of survival for the patient.